Ramaphosa expected to ease lockdown restrictions on Sunday – including lifting the alcohol ban

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to ease some of South Africa’s lockdown restrictions on Sunday evening, according to the Sunday Times.

Rosemary Anderson, chair of Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA), told the Sunday Times that it expects the president to ease the country’s travel and alcohol bans to help get the economy on track.

“Without lifting the alcohol ban, most restaurants will no longer be financially viable, as big portions of profits come from alcohol sales,” said Anderson.

This was echoed by Lucky Ntimane, convener of the National Liquor Traders Council.

“The alcohol industry in its entire value chain – which includes restaurants, hotels, taverns and pubs – creates employment for one million people. South Africa’s 40,000 taverns employ 200,000 people, who because they are not formally employed, do not qualify for government relief aid,” said Ntimane.

“Couple the economic effects of the ban, which includes SARS not receiving R1.5 billion in revenue because of the latest violence, and the government will be forced to lift the ban to kick-start the economy.”

“In the space of a week of looting, more booze is circulating illicitly in society than what would be if alcohol could be sold legally,” Ntimane said.

The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) along with the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and wine group Vinpro wrote to Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel last week requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the devastating impact of the ban, and alternative interventions.

It follows the wave of violence and destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which saw 161 liquor outlets and distribution centres looted and damaged. The industry bodies said the restrictions need to be relaxed to avoid a possible industry-wide collapse – which threatens the livelihood of a million people supported by the sector.

South Africa moved to an adjusted level 4 lockdown at the end of June, with a complete prohibition on the sale of alcohol in place.

The alcohol industry has faced various forms of restrictions since South Africa introduced its first Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, with the government arguing that alcohol consumption leads to increased strain on the country’s hospitals.

Estimates show that the latest four-week ban has put 9,206 jobs in the alcohol industry at risk, with a potential loss of R10.2 billion in taxes and excise duties.

“These businesses as well as thousands of others will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban,” said BASA. “At the same time, we know many South Africans are still obtaining alcohol from the illicit industry, which is already worth R20.5 billion.”

Passed the peak

South Africa has passed the peak of the Coronavirus third wave, which has infected over two million people, acting health minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi said on Friday.

Addressing the media on the progress of the government’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19, the minister said the number of new infections has started to decline.

However, she cautioned that the country is not out of the woods just yet.

“We’re cautioning and extremely worried because the many gatherings that we saw during the unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal may lead to another surge in numbers,” said Kubayi.

The Department of Health will continue to monitor the situation closely by ensuring that it screens communities that were at the heart of the looting and violent protests.

She also appealed to those who took part in those gatherings to ensure that they visit the nearest healthcare facility if they present any symptoms of Covid-19.

“We’re worried that some may stay away because in the contact tracing, people are expected to give indications where they have been and because of fear of arrest they are likely to stay away.”

Meanwhile “quite a number” of people who were arrested during the looting tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This is an indication that we should be concerned about those who have been in the protests.”

A total of 49,589 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours in South Africa, with 12,056 new cases, representing a 24.3% positivity rate. A further 413 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

The majority of new cases are from Gauteng (30%), followed by the Western Cape (21%). KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 14%; Mpumalanga accounted for 8%.


Read: Social distancing will not be strictly enforced when students return to school – principals given odd instructions

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Ramaphosa expected to ease lockdown restrictions on Sunday – including lifting the alcohol ban